The multinational study is published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Stephen Rennard, M.D., a lung physician and Larson Professor of Medicine at UNMC, was co-author of the study.
“Varenicline is more effective than other smoking cessation methods and has more demonstrated flexibility in its use in terms of when the smoker should quit,” Dr. Rennard said. “This recent study suggests that varenicline also can be used with greater flexibility. Specifically, people can take the medication then cut down gradually and quit over the next three months rather than quitting cold turkey.”
Jon Ebbert, M.D., associate director for research in the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center, was lead author on the study that reported the effects of the prescription medication varenicline for increasing smoking abstinence rates among smokers who wanted to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked before trying to quit completely.
“This study is important because this opens the door to treatment for approximately 14 million smokers who have no intention of quitting in the next 30 days but are willing to reduce their smoking rate while working toward a quit attempt,” Dr. Ebbert said. “In the past, these smokers may have not received medication therapy, and we want them to know that different approaches are available.”
Smokers were randomized to either six months of varenicline or placebo and their continuous smoking abstinence rates were evaluated at six and 12 months.
The researchers found that 760 participants receiving varenicline were greater than four times more likely to quit than the 750 participants receiving placebo at six months (32.1 percent vs. 6.9 percent) and over two times more likely to quit than participants receiving a placebo at 12 months (27.0 percent vs. 9.9 percent).
The research was funded by Pfizer. Dr. Rennard is a consultant for Pfizer and was involved in the design of the study.
University of Nebraska Medical Center